Gurukul is a combination word made by joining two Sanskrit language words, Guru, which means teacher or master, and kula, which means home. The Gurukul system was widely prevalent in many parts of India for centuries. Following the plan, parents sent their children to stay with their Guru in his house and master various arts and sciences.
Education has been a crucial part of every individual’s life since time immemorial. A formal degree and a fancy professional title are the recent definitions of an educated person. In ancient times, education was more in the outside world than within the four walls of a classroom. People learned various arts and techniques from their Acharya (teacher) in the sacred and revered environment of a Gurukul. Youngsters who could not attend a Gurukul completed their education by mastering various skills from their parents and family members.
Let us know more about the Gurukul system and understand its impact on olden society.
Origin Of Gurukul System
India has a rich past and great heritage and is the oldest known civilization. People of various religious faiths call India their home, making it a melting pot of rich cultures. One such exciting culture is the ancient Gurukul system that prevailed in India around 5000 B.C.
Students learned various practical subjects and the importance of a disciplined and healthy life in the Gurukul. Hindu religious scriptures like the Upanishads and Vedas hold the Gurukul in very high regard. Hindu teachings depict Gurukul as a place that forged a sacred bond between the Acharya or Guru (teacher) and the shishya (student). Gurukul was not an optional way of education but a tradition that every Hindu household followed. It was a cultural norm to send students to the Gurukul once they reached completed eight years of age. Some families followed the tradition of performing the thread ceremony, which is an essential tradition among various Hindu communities.
The ceremony was performed to celebrate boys eligible to attend Gurukul. While the Gurukul tradition has faded considerably recently, many people still perform the thread ceremony for their sons nearing the ages of eight or ten years.
After the thread ceremony, sons left their parental homes to stay with their Guru at his house. In the olden era, when knowledge was worshiped like God, a Guru never charged any fees for the education he would impart to his students. Students were expected to help their Guru around the house by doing domestic chores and helping with other activities related to the Gurukul. After completing the education, the shishya offered a Gurudakshina (payment to the teacher) to their Guru on his own accord. The Gurudakshina would be in the form of money, cattle, or other material wealth that would help the Gurukul to flourish.
We live in a society where we study and read a lot about women’s past struggles to get fundamental rights. Ancient Indian culture was under Vedic influence and vehemently opposed gender-based inequality.
Men and women had equal privileges and opportunities, which made the Vedic society an ideal example of a perfect way of living. Female students also attended separate Gurukuls for girls and learned from highly educated women scholars.
In the Vedic era, your Gurukul was the source of all your knowledge. People held immense respect, honor, and gratitude for their Guru and Gurukul. Let us learn more about the lessons taught in a traditional Gurukul.
Lessons Imparted In A Gurukul
Students who stayed in the Gurukul sought more than the knowledge books offered. Gurukul was where you learned practical skills, valuable life lessons, religion, culture, and the importance of healthy living.
- Akin to modern-day schools, Gurukuls were a place to learn Mathematics, theories of Physics, and even more advanced subjects like Astronomy.
- The ancient Indian science of Ayurveda was taught to students of Gurukul, who liked the field of medicine.
- Students learned from Hindu scriptures like the Vedas, Upanishads, and the Bhagavad Gita when they stayed with their Guru.
- The Guru also readied their students for the real world by teaching them basic domestic and survival skills. Students were introduced to cutting and gathering firewood, cooking food, and helping their Guru with household chores.
- A Guru also their students the importance of appropriate behavior, ethical ideology, and good values during their stay in the Gurukul.
- Students learned about their religion, ancient traditions, and the importance of their culture when they stayed in the Gurukul.
- A Gurukul housed many students at a time who learned to co-exist and thrive together. When students from different backgrounds stayed together, they learned practical skills that would make them responsible citizens of society.
- Lessons on Yoga were a crucial part of every Gurukul. Through Yoga, every student learned the importance of physical fitness, mental health, and spiritual well-being.
- Meditation, praying, and chanting were crucial lessons at the Gurukul.
Unlike modern-day schools, Gurukuls did not stick to a strict syllabus from specific books. The Guru observed each of their students and set lessons depending on the latter’s understanding and abilities. While the studies were thorough, they were only sometimes the same for all students of the Gurukul.
Historical Importance Of Gurukul Tradition
India has a rich past leaning heavily towards culture and traditions. The Indian civilization has made some outstanding contributions toward global development. Many discoveries and scientific theories that are popular today find their origin in India. The Indian Gurukul system nurtured the talents of notable personalities who significantly changed the course of various academic and practical fields of study.
The great Indian Mathematician Aryabhata was one of the most talented astronomers of his time. He lived in the fifth century and formulated many theories on Algebra, Trigonometry, and Geometry that find application in various technology sectors. Aryabhata is credited with giving the world the concept of the digit zero, which is crucial in every mathematical calculation. Aryabhata was a student and later a teacher at the renowned Nalanda University. Nalanda University was a former Gurukul with the best research and technology resources to offer its students. The university was located in the present-day Indian State of Bihar.
The Mahabharata is one of the greatest Indian epics narrating the famed battle of Kurukshetra between two rivaling royal clans. The princes of both families learned extensively about warfare and its politics from their Gurus while residing in a Gurukul. Dronacharya was one of the most well-known Gurus of the Vedic era who managed his Gurukul with utmost righteousness and discipline. Yogic knowledge profoundly influenced the lessons taught in Gurukuls; the best example is Bhrigu Valli. Bhrigu Valli is a discourse on the importance of self-awareness and its impact on one’s spiritual well-being. Bhrigu Valli was first taught to the students of Guru Varuni’s Gurukul.
Various other Indian scientists and mathematicians like Acharya Kanad were part of the Indian Gurukul system. Acharya Kanad is credited with discovering the concept of atoms, a breakthrough in chemistry and physics. Bhaskaracharya, a great Indian astronomer, founded several theories on the impact of gravitational force. He, too, was a disciple of the Indian Gurukul system.
Downfall And Subsequent Revival Of The Gurukal System
The British invasion of India led to the downfall of the Gurukul system, which was widely prevalent since the Vedic era. Evidence states that the British destroyed many Gurukuls by burning or demolishing them and imprisoning Gurus. Despite the outrage that followed, the Gurukul system was lost and existed only in the pages of history.
Dayanand Saraswati and Swami Shraddhanand, two Indian social reformers, strove to revive the Gurukul system in India. The modern Gurukul era began in 1886 with the establishment of the Dayanand Anglo-Vedic Public School. Shastriji Maharaj Shree Dharamjivan is another excellent social reformer who started the first Swaminarayan Gurukul in the State of Gujrat in 1948. The Gurukul system began flourishing again, and various Gurukuls now exist in different parts of India.
The Gurukul system is one of the most crucial facets of the Indian education system. Many Indian students are opting to study in modern-day Gurukuls to experience the benefits of the ancient way of education. Gurukuls have also been established in various foreign nations due to the rapid rise in their popularity.
The Indian way of education has carved a niche for itself owing to its unique teaching methods.